A Better Use of $5 Trillion

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Originally published on Medium

Twenty-first-century billionaires are doing some amazing things these days. They’re building electric cars, planning space hotels, buying up social media shares, and sending their buddies into the atmosphere on massive phallic spaceships. What a time to be alive!

There are about 724 billionaires in the U.S. today. According to Forbes the combined wealth of all those U.S.-based billionaires equals around $5 trillion. It’s no wonder they’re spending all that extra cash on things the rest of us might think are completely bonkers (I mean, who doesn’t love a penis rocket built by a guy who sells books and dresses like Pitbull). However, as great as all those things might be, are they really the best use of all that money? I mean, I’m not too proud to refuse a million here or there if they’re offering, but there are so many that need that even more than I do. There’s gotta be an effective way for them to use all that incredible wealth to help those in need, right?

Well, for all you billionaires out there tired of swimming in pools of gold coins locked up in your Scrooge McDuck vaults, I’ve got some great philanthropic ways you can spend that money that might not exactly save the world, but they could make some REAL POSITIVE CHANGE for the people who need it most. I understand the hesitation you may feel to let go of that wealth, even if it’s a microscopic amount, but just hear me out. OK?

Great!

Shall we start with the obvious?

You could just give it all away, right? You know, just distribute it all equally among the U.S. population. With 330 Million people living in the US today, dividing $5 trillion equally to each of them would give everyone about…

$15,000?

Wait… really? That’s it? Shit, fifteen grand would be helpful, sure, but it’s not going to save us all.

OK, so maybe that’s not the most effective way to change things for the better, but don’t worry. I’ve prepared four ideas that could build positive change for our neighbors who need it more than anyone else. Here they are:

1 – Housing the Unhoused

On any given night in the U.S., there are almost 600,000 people living on the street – no solid shelter, running water, or central air. They have no place to call their own and the vast majority of them have no other choice. An estimated 21 of them die every single day. That is an absolute tragedy that could so easily be avoided or remedied.

One solution to the unhoused crisis in the United States is building tiny house communities. In fact, there are plenty of them already sprouting up across the country. It’s no wonder why, too. These houses provided safe, secure shelter at a relatively low cost.

The price of a tiny house can be as low as $8000, but the average is somewhere between $30,000-$60,000, so let’s say the price of a good quality tiny home is averaged at around $45,000. If all 724 billionaires in the US got together to start a project to house every unhoused person in the country, they’d have to contribute a mere $37 million each.

That may seem like a lot to most Americans, but that is less than 4% of a billion and most U.S. billionaires are MULTI-billionaires. If they’re like Elon Musk and have a net worth of $273 Billion, then that $37 Mil contribution equals less than HALF OF A PERCENT!

In fact, if Elon Musk took on this project alone it would cost him $27 billion. That would bring his net worth down to about $246 billion. That is only ONE PERCENT of his entire net worth. He could end homelessness in the United States with a single percentage of his wealth. And guess what, he’d still be the richest man in the world, and he’d likely make it all back in less than a year because his stock would skyrocket off the publicity alone!

That’s all it would take to provide a tiny house to every single unhoused person living on the streets in the United States. Just a fraction of the accumulated wealth of all U.S. billionaires. That’s really not that bad.

But, it’s not the only crisis we’re facing. So, let’s move on to the next one:

2 – Transportation

About 8.45% of U.S. households don’t have access to a motor vehicle. We’re going to round this up to 10% just for the sake of simplicity. If there are 330 million people living in the United States and an average of approximately 3 people per household, that means 33 million people don’t have access to reliable transportation.

Of course, there is public transit available in just about every city, but what about rural areas? How do we fix that?

Well, what about bicycles?

OK, storytime. When I was in my late 20s and my wife and I were separated, I didn’t have a car. I had to either rely on others or head to work on foot. This went on for a good while until a great friend of mine acquired an old bike, refurbished it, and gave it to me to use. I bring this story up all the time, but it’s still not enough to express how much that simple act meant to me.

Is my friend a billionaire? No. In fact, he was going through his own financial struggles at the time. But, out of the goodness of his heart, he rebuilt an old bike and gave it to a friend in need. Tears are literally coming to my eyes as I’m writing this because I know how difficult it is to live in the 21st century without reliable transportation.

Moving on.

A decent bike costs about $200. You can find a good one for less, especially if you buy second-hand, but let’s go with $200. At that rate, it would cost about $20 billion to provide them all with bikes. Out of 724 billionaires, they would each need to contribute about $28 million.

A drop in the bucket.

3 – Healthcare

This is a touchy subject, I know. I’m going to make it easy and get straight to the point.

There are 31 million Americans without healthcare today.

The average cost of healthcare per person in the United States is $12,530

31,000,000 x 12,530 = 388,430,000,000

388,430,000,000/724 = 536,505,524.86 or $537 million.

That’s how much each billionaire would need to contribute to ensure everybody in the U.S. had healthcare for the next 12 months. Barely more than a half-billion dollars.

4 – Child Hunger

This is a painful subject for most people to think about. The thought of a child going to bed hungry is tragic, to say the least. The fact that 12 million children in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night is nothing short of devastating.

The average cost of a meal is $4 per person (as of 2020. This doesn’t take into account the dramatic rate of inflation we’ve been facing).

It would only cost U.S. billionaires $57 million each to ensure that no child went to bed hungry for a year. To ensure that no child had to wonder when their next meal would come, from where, or whether that food is even safe to eat.

A drop in the bucket is all it would take. A single fucking drop to make sure every child is fed.


So, billionaires. What do you think?

Before you start angry tweeting, let’s make a few things clear. I’m not naive. I know that my analysis here hasn’t covered all the bases. There are going to be hidden costs and other things that I’m leaving out of the equation, but you guys are billionaires for a reason, right? You’re great at workarounds and loopholes. I bet you could do all of these things for even cheaper than I laid out here.

So, what’s holding you back, huh? What’s stopping you from putting this into motion? I’m not asking you to pay higher taxes. You’d just find a loophole out of that anyway. I’m not even perpetuating Socialism. You want the world to believe in Capitalism again, right? Well here’s your chance. Prove to the world we don’t need Socialism to improve the overall quality of life.

Or, are you just too attached to that 1% of your wealth?

Joe Wright

Joe Wright

Joseph Paul Wright is a freelance journalist based in Nogales, Arizona.
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